The key shots in the Long Island PGA final Friday might have been hit on a different island, in March. Back then, Huntington Country Club assistant pro Tim Puetz qualified for and played in his first PGA Tour event, the Puerto Rico Open.
Having been there sure didn't hurt him in a 5 and 4 victory over defending champion and close friend Nick Beddow, a Piping Rock assistant. "Whenever I got over a shot or a putt that really meant a lot, I said to myself, 'I've done this on the biggest stage there is,'" Puetz said.
"It was incredible, the entire experience," he said of his Tour debut. "I was hitting balls next to David Toms. Everyone was so positive, so encouraging."
He said his momentum was building before that, with a couple of high finishes in the Florida-based PGA Winter Series. Puetz credited the work he has done with his coach Jimmy Damiano, a teaching pro at Glen Oaks with whom Puetz runs a youth school, the Fortitude Golf Academy. He also cited the security of financial support from Huntington members, who encouraged him to travel and play all winter.
Puetz felt comfortable in the final at Muttontown against Beddow, his victorious partner in the Met PGA Assistants team championship. "I probably play more golf with him than with anyone else," the champion said, adding that he has sharpened his competitive edge since he lost to Beddow in the quarterfinals last year.
After grasping the trophy Friday, the 32-year-old winner -- an Illinois native who played at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa -- did what assistants generally do. He spent six hours on the range, giving lessons.
Didn't forecast an ace
Not even a dependable forecaster such as Bill Korbel could have predicted what happened on April 19. The News12 meteorologist was celebrating his birthday and had considered taking his wife to a Broadway show. "But nothing really interested us," Korbel said. "Instead, since it was such a nice day, I decided to play my first round of golf of the season on the Eisenhower Park Red Course."
Having been a golfer since he was 11, he called it a typical opener: nothing special. Then came a strong 6-iron on the 160-yard 16th hole. The sun's glare didn't allow him to see the flight, so he searched fruitlessly beyond the back fringe, then he "very casually" peeked in the hole. The sight made him feel as if a tropical warm front had just moved through. "My first hole-in-one, on my birthday and in the first round of the year," the weatherman said. "It is something I will never forget."
Rain puts off Richardson
The Richardson Memorial Invitational is back at Seawane in Hewlett Harbor after having been forced to move in 2013 -- for the first time in its 65 years -- because of Superstorm Sandy. Nature spoiled the homecoming, what with downpours causing the Long Island Golf Association to postpone it from this weekend to Sept. 17-19. Doug Vergith, the LIGA's new executive director, is sorry that the Richardson will not have its usual distinction as the year's first big amateur tournament. But he pointed out that the course will be in perfect shape for the new date, which can only benefit the competition.
Zahringer in debut event
Deepdale member George Zahringer, a longtime amateur standout in the Met area, played this week for the U.S. in the inaugural Concession Cup, an event inspired by Jack Nicklaus' sportsmanlike decision to concede Tony Jacklin's putt and halve the 1969 Ryder Cup. Nicklaus and Jacklin were honorary Concession captains in Sarasota, Fla.
Even Phil can't get on
Fact of the Week: Phil Mickelson was turned down in three tries to get on Pinehurst No. 2 recently because the resort, heavily promoting the fact it will host the men's and women's U.S. Opens on successive weeks next month, is booked. He is one of a record 10,127 entries for the men's Open. Most of them, unlike Mickelson, must play their way in. The local Long Island qualifier is tomorrow at Mill River Club in Upper Brookville. You can watch, admission is free. Pairings are at www.mgagolf.org.